Pathways to Results is an outcomes-focused, equity-guided process designed to improve pathways that support student transition to and through postsecondary education and employment. It follows these five phases:

Pathways to Results addresses equity gaps among diverse-learner groups and strives to continuously improve processes and practices that are critical to student success. This includes retention, completion of postsecondary credentials, and transition to employment. 

The process begins with team members and partners focusing on critical problems that hinder student success. These issues are pinpointed when the teams use student-level data to identify gaps in outcomes among racial, gender, low-income, and other underserved groups. Emphasis is placed on access as well as outcomes because success is more than just giving students a chance. The expectation is that all learners will achieve outcomes that demonstrate their readiness to attend college and thrive in careers. Major processes and practices are assessed to understand how contributing factors create the identified problems and impede student success. Implementation and evaluation plans are designed to create and ensure that quality pathway solutions are achieved immediately and over time.

Pathways to Results uses data-driven methods rooted in participatory-action research and developmental evaluation. It uses data to ensure perceived problems are real and worthy of scarce resources that can help improve student outcomes and the successful performance of programs, institutions, and systems. Pathways to Results taps into the knowledge and diverse perspectives of team members who are committed to developing solutions that can be sustained and extended to other pathways. Once begun, the cycle of continuous improvement that is integral to Pathways to Results is ongoing.

Why Equity

Access, equity, and opportunity are the right places to start when it comes to education and the chance to succeed. Yet successful outcomes are the necessary end goal, and when it comes to student success, the education system is not working equitably or effectively.

Pathways to Results is concerned with outcomes and equity for all students for many reasons. Despite the best intentions to create positive changes, disparities in outcomes continue to persist for underserved student populations. Racial and ethnic minorities, low-income students, students with disabilities, immigrants and English Language Learners (ELL), and other underserved groups at nearly all points in the educational pipeline are not achieving the same levels of success as their nonminority and higher-income counterparts. For these students, the educational system is not delivering on its promises.

Meanwhile, student demographics are changing. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that no single racial or ethnic group will constitute more than 50 percent of the population by 2050. Such dramatic changes require new teaching strategies that address diverse learners, including giving them the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. By sharing perspectives, students gain knowledge and interest in the world around them and an increased understanding of how society benefits from an educated populace. Education in the U.S. has long been regarded as an opportunity equalizer, a function of the "American dream." If that dream is to persist, students from all backgrounds must be able to gain access to education and have the opportunity to learn so that they can achieve their goals.

Institutions often focus—without success—on so-called “deficits” (e.g., poor motivation or lack of preparation) among minority populations as the primary source of "achievement gaps." Historically underrepresented student groups, including low-income students and students of color, are often the recipients of unequal educational options and resources. To address this concern, the Pathways to Results program focuses on equity and encourages institutions and practitioners to use data to uncover barriers and challenges in the educational process for diverse learners, leading to improvements that ensure students from unequal starting points attain equitable outcomes.

To address equity issues in student transitions and pathways, the Pathways to Results process has drawn ideas from the work of the Center for Urban Education (CUE) at the University of Southern California (USC). The Equity Scorecard™ process at that institution shifts the thinking from blaming students to encouraging the responsibility of institutions to look at how educational practices influence student outcomes.

This approach involves practitioners analyzing data and finding clues to improve practices that enhance outcomes. Pathways to Results has been influenced by the groundbreaking work of Estela Bensimon and Alicia Dowd, faculty members at USC and director and co-director of CUE, respectively, and their team of talented researchers. PTR has benefited from CUE’s use of critical participatory-action research, its method of identifying problems of practice, and its engagement of practitioners in solving problems.

Contributing Authors

A large number of contributing authors have written and edited different editions and versions of the Pathways to Results process modules as they have evolved. These authors include Stacey Bennett, Dr. Debra Bragg, Dr. Erin Castro, Dr. Tim Harmon, Ann Jones, Cathy Kirby, S. Kristovich, Viveka Kudaligma, Heather McCambly, Kathy Nicholson-Tosh, Sal Nudo, Jackie Rodriguez, and Dr. Jason Taylor. 

Suggested citation:

OCCRL. (2018). Pathways to Results. Champaign, IL: Office of Community College Research and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved from